Sunday, April 2, 2017

New Chapter in Digiscoping - 31 Mar 2017

I couldn't get home fast enough from work. Waiting for me was the Digidapter™ that I ordered from Paul Sayegh (Thanks, Paul!). I was also expecting the UPS man w/ my new Swarovski STX 25-60x85 Spotting Scope, but it hadn't arrived yet, or so I assumed. Robin wanted to go to dinner, and wanted to leave now, but I had to wait to sign for the package!!!! She asked me if I had looked in the laundry room... Woo-hoo!

In the box was 2 packages: the Swarovski STX 85mm Objective, and the STX 20-60X Ocular. With a simple twist the two pieces were together to form a brand new spotting scope and the beginning of a new chapter in my life as a digiscoper.

The Digidapter™ package included the camera adapter to fit the STX 20-60X Ocular and the Swarovski DRX Sleeve Kit that includes the sleeve that slides over the scope to receive the adapter, and a new eyecup that has a metal lip that acts as a stop for the Digidapter™when installed. Danny's Digiscoping website has a nice video that shows the Digidatper setup for the STX scope. The Sony Alpha a6300 and Sigma 20mm f/2.8 could be butted directly against the eyepiece as the lens is internally focusing, so there's no worry about lens-eyepiece crashing.

With the scope mounted on the tripod I was anxious to give it quick test. The focusing sleeve turns smoothly and effortlessly with just the right tension. The magnification sleeve turns a bit more stiffly, which is good and helps keep the magnification from slipping. There was no internal vignetting when zooming from 25 - 60X so I was doubly pleased.

Even though it was overcast and drizzly, I took it out onto the deck to scope the Song Sparrows and American Tree Sparrows under the feeder 20' away. Feather detail was crisp! No evidence of chromatic aberration (that test would come w/ sunny weather and high contrast objects). I have some muscle memory training to do as it takes some getting used to a straight scope, as well as focusing rings (as opposed to the small knobs on the Zeiss Diascopes). But, with the Sony Alpha a6300 and Sigma 28 mm f/2.8 attached to the Digidapter, there is no shift in apparent field of view (the Zeiss showed just a slight shift downward when looking through the angled eyepiece). The view through the camera was sharp and easy to manually focus.

I did a quick comparison of both scopes: The Zeiss 85T*Fl Diascope and 20-75X Zoom eyepiece (ca. 2007) versus the Swarovski STX 25-60x85 (new). I focused on the hummingbird feeder as the birds scattered. The obvious difference between the two is the lack of vignette circle on the Swaro scope (I forgot to zoom the Zeiss to 25X). But, more importantly, the field-flattener in the Swarovski eyepiece eliminates edge-softness that is apparent in the Zeiss eyepiece (note the sharpness of the perches between the two scopes).

Zeiss 85T*Fl, 20-75X eyepiece at 20x
Swarovski STX 25-60x85 at 25X
The birds? I turned the Swarovski scope on the Song Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows, House Finches and Black-capped Chickadees that had since returned to feeding 20' away. At 25X the bird appears sharp and crisp. At 60X you can see the feather detail wonderfully! Images are a bit grainy, but given that it was dark and drizzly I'm extremely pleased.

The sun's supposed to come out tomorrow, so I'll continue to experiment.  

Note: these images were taken w/ the scope mounted on the Manfrotto 501HDV Videohead, which provides a stable platform for the scope and smooth panning. However, three hands are needed handle the fluid-head, camera and scope at the same time. I can pan using the camera, but am nervous about the strain on the Digidapter™ and scope. Tomorrow, I'll try using the Jobu Jr. Gimbal Head.

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